ORLANDO, Fla. - FOX 35 investigates how a juvenile with a violent criminal record was being monitored leading up to the murder of an Orlando mother of two.
Ja'Quarius McCray, 17, is charged in the death of Roxana Sanchez, 36. McCray was booked into the Orange County Jail in February of 2020 and that’s where he stayed for a little over a year when he was released this March.
So just how, and how often, was a probation officer checking in on McCray? FOX 35 News reporter Amanda McKenzie went to the juvenile justice system, the public defender’s office, the county, and the state with questions but no one has yet to give clear answers.
"He’s a person who already broke into a home, who shot at the homeowner upon leaving and already had that propensity for violence," Orange County Sheriff John Mina said, "and now another violent crime in our community from someone who should have been in custody."
Sheriff Mina said McCray should never have been released.
"I think it’s incumbent upon judges and state attorneys to really ensure that those offenders, especially those who commit violent crimes are not put on probation, are not let out of custody like as in this case," Mina said.
Just one week after being released, McCray’s mother asked Judge Wayne Wooten for him to be moved to his father’s home in Ocala. It was granted.
FOX 35 News reached out to his office for comment but we were told he was off for the day and did not receive a response.
There is no record of a new probation officer being assigned to his case in North Central Florida – something the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice System told FOX 35 News is standard procedure when a move happens.
Sanchez’s family said they want answers.
"Who was supposed to monitor him?" Yahaira Viado, the victim’s sister asked. "Why wasn’t he at home where he was supposed to be? I still can’t believe my sister is gone."
When FOX 35 News called McCray’s probation officer in Orange County, she said "no comment."
Sheriff Mina said, back in 1998, a program called the Juvenile Arrest and Monitor Unit was formed to assist probation officers in the Juvenile Justice System. While the grant money ran out in 2008, the program was still part of the department up until late last year when it was renamed and repurposed.
"One of the reasons they stopped doing it long before I got here is there was disproportionate treatment of juveniles. Our deputies ended up arresting many juveniles for curfew violations or very, very minor violations -- one of the reasons we got rid of it. Plus, I think staffing is always an issue. We want to be out there on the streets preventing violent crime from happening."
Sanchez’s accused killer was supposed to be home following a court-ordered curfew. Her family is demanding action.
"You’re supposed to protect us. You know that these kids are violent. They don’t think twice about shooting people. I mean he just did that last year. He was just released and did it like two-and-a-half months after. I just think that they need to think about getting this program running again because I mean how many lives have been lost for them to see that these kids need to be monitored."
For now, McCray remains in Juvenile Detention. The other person involved in the crime is still wanted.
This is a developing story. Check back for details. Watch FOX 35 News for the latest updates.